*How-to videos at bottom of page.
Choosing the right race wax can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. Remember that your goal is to have fast skis: It is important to keep it simple and focus on the essential parts. Understanding how each step in the waxing process affects ski speed will make you more effective and efficient. There is very little science to back up our understanding of ski waxing. Instead, wax technicians rely heavily on empirical information. They test and use what works simply because it works—even if test results confound the most experienced of wax techs. That being said, experience is a priceless resource when it comes to waxing. BNS staff members have waxed skis at every level of competition, from small citizens’ races to the World Cup and the Olympics. In the following sections, we share this knowledge with you in the hopes that our experience can help you have great skis, every time.
The Greatest Effect with the Least Damage
While incidental scratches and dings incurred during normal use don’t slow your skis down much at all, the damage inflicted during incorrect waxing and preparation often causes skis to slow considerably. The two most common types of ski damage that we see are burned bases or overheated ski cores. Burning of the base will seal the base material, resulting in little to no wax absorption, while an overheated ski core may result in a bump or blister on the base. By exercising proper technique when waxing, you can easily avoid damage and continue to maximize the potential of your equipment. Also, knowing your tools and how to use them will give you the confidence you need to apply waxes safely and with precision.
Most ski bases are made of P-Tex, an industrial thermoplastic that provides the ideal surface for sliding on snow—low friction and high abrasion resistance. P-Tex is made by pressing together small particles of polyethylene and various additives under high pressure and heat through a process called sintering. This creates a material that will absorb wax when applied with adequate heat. Most bases require an iron temperature of at least 110°C to absorb wax. Alternatively, skis can be put into a “hot box” that will heat the skis to a much lower temperature, 55°-65°C, and the wax is absorbed slowly into the base over several hours. Physically, wax alters the hardness of the base surface. This allows you to tune the base for the kind of snow crystals you anticipate encountering. Chemically, wax adjusts the water repellency and also lubricates the ski base. Wax additives such as fluorine, graphite and molybdenum provide additional characteristics such as dirt repellency, dry lubrication and electrical conductivity. Knowing the different attributes of wax additives will help you select the correct wax for the right conditions.
Paraffin waxes are the foundation of glide waxing and come in many varieties that are used for different temperature ranges, moisture levels, and snow types. These waxes are applied by melting the wax onto the ski and moving a hot iron along the surface of the ski from tip to tail; this process allows the wax to penetrate the base material. The safest and most effective method is to use the iron temperature recommended by the manufacturer and to move the iron in a relatively continuous pass from tip to tail without moving it back and forth on the ski. Two or three passes should be adequate for each wax application. Once the wax has cooled, the wax that has not been absorbed into the base is removed by scraping with a plastic scraper followed by brushing. Scraping should remove almost all of the excess wax. A sharp scraper is necessary to do this efficiently, especially with colder, harder paraffin waxes. Brushing will pick up where scraping left off, removing any remaining wax residue and cleaning out the structure (grind pattern) in the base. Choosing the appropriate brush for the wax will leave you with a clean and fast ski. Hotboxing skis is a great way to prep a new or newly-ground pair of skis as it efficiently saturates the base material with wax.
1. Start by holding the scraper firmly with both hands.
2. One push of the scraper from tip to tail will remove the bulk of the wax.
3. Follow up with a few short, quick scrapes to remove pockets of wax missed in the initial scraping.
4. When scraping the edges and sidewalls, use the short ends of the scraper so you don’t dull the scraping (long) edge.
5. Keep the scraper flat on the ski and keep the shoulders and body stable behind the motions.
6. Scrape with confidence, a lack of focus can lead to a slip of the scraper, potentially damaging the edge of the base.